Text & Photos by Stephen kneubuehl (RS: @STEPHENK)
Orange County knows how to do it big. And the car scene is no exception.
Every Saturday, a vast array of enthusiasts and their cars gather at The Outlets at San Clemente. Starting at 9am sharp, the gates are opened, releasing a plethora of enthusiasts. The knock of engines and exhausts boom as they enter the mall parking lot.
South OC Cars and Coffee officially begins.
Hundreds of cars stream in, many packing families, pets, and smiles tucked inside. The line of entrants even causes local traffic headaches, extending well outside the mall. Some days it even blocks the off-ramp from the I-5 freeway. Half of the upper parking lot is reserved for the show. With hundreds of spaces, it quickly overruns, and enthusiasts begin to spill into the underground parking.
As attendees dart towards their parking spots and exit their vehicles, the lot quickly fills with more buzz than a beehive.
Everything from classics to hotrods to exotics line the rows and rows of parking. It’s a sea of cars. Today’s show brought even more supercars and hypercars than usual. Damon Fryer from Daily Driven Exotics (DDE) rolls in with his McLaren 720 GT-R, beautifully wrapped in a hot red and black livery. A roofless satin yellow Lamborghini Huracan EVO Aperta parks neatly behind. The audience is so dazzled, it doesn’t know which way to look. The dilemma only increases when a newly released Lamborghini Huracan STO enters and parks a few places down. But this is nothing new here at South OC.
Located in San Clemente at the southern tip of Orange County, this wasn’t always the hottest car show in O.C. Years earlier, Irvine Cars and Coffee was the largest gathering in the area. But its popularity got the best of it. It was soon overrun with unsustainable crowds and angry neighbors. The show inevitably got shut down.
James Wehr (RS: @carsandcoffee) and his father Simon had the perfect solution. They were already hosting drives to Irvine and other destinations starting from The Outlets. They spoke with the mall’s management and worked out an agreement to hold the show every Saturday 9am-11am. Word spread quickly, and the rest is history. South OC Cars and Coffee is now arguably the largest weekly car show in the world.
Hundreds of bystanders line the sidewalks, armed with high-end cameras and phones as one-of-a-kind cars stream by. A large, orange Nike logo on the side of the mall looms above, a reminder to enthusiasts to “Just do it”. The center row, identified by its iconic pergola roof, is usually reserved for exotic cars. Extending outwards on both sides are rows of car candy.
At this show, you can see a C1 Chevrolet Corvette parked next to a C8. Or a GT40 parked next to a modern Ford GT. Or a Shelby Cobra parked next to a Shelby GT500. A dream come true for every petrolhead. Don’t forget the slammed Acura NSX, hot rods, and cruisers. Stock and modded, Japanese and Euros. There’s something for everyone. And everyone is welcome.